New pastor at Lansing United Methodist Church answers call to serve he received in a dream


Family of new pastor at Lansing United Methodist Church ... Left to right - Front row: Rebecca and Davinia. Back row: Mado, Marcellina and Pastor Sedar Wembonyama. Photo by Susan Cantine-Maxson.

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

Lansing’s United Methodist Church recently welcomed a new minister and his family to their parish. Pastor Sedar Wembonyama and his family bring a new dimension to worship to the congregation because they have spent most of their life in the Congo in Africa.

Marcellina, the pastor’s wife, currently drives to Postville to work but would love to find something closer to home. The three daughters, Mado, Rebecca and Davinia all attend Eastern Allamakee schools.

Four years ago, they immigrated to the United States to Nashua, where they stayed with a friend who was a minister. For the first time, they experienced snow and Iowa winters. Marcellina liked snow but not driving in it, and the girls enjoyed playing in it.

The most difficult issue for them after moving was the language. The Congo’s official language is French, so they needed to learn English during the time they were in Nashua. Pastor Wembonyama attended Hawkeye Community College and North Iowa Area Community College to improve his English skills.

The family said the easiest thing to get used to in the United States has been pizza. Pizza is not a dish served in the Congo but here in the USA, pizza has become a favorite food. Another difference in the cultures is that it seems in America, people tend to stay in the same place most of their lives. If they go away, they typically come back to retire in the area where they were raised.

The Congolese people are much more nomadic because of a lack of crops or jobs; often, a government conflict forces people from one part of the country to another. People need to move much more often to remain safe or to make a living. The education system is similar with elementary and high schools but students, if the family can afford it, often go away to boarding school for high school.

Pastor Wembonyama explained that in the Congo the father’s name often differs from the family name. He has three names: Sedar Shako Wembonyama. In America, children tend to have the last name of the father, but in the Congo it is different, the family name is actually the second name, which is Shako. His daughters all have the last name of Shako.

Pastor’s story of how he was called to be a minister sounds like a chapter from the Old Testament. He was helping to run a successful family import business, specializing in fish. He flew all over Africa, running this large business, but when he was 25, he had a dream that changed his life. He explained:
“When I was about 25, one night I had a dream, a man came to me and gave me a Bible and said ‘Go, work for me.’ I told him, ‘I cannot do this. I like my job.’ Then the man told him, ‘If you do not do as I ask, then you will die.’ The next day I told my wife about the dream and we agreed to ignore it because it was just a dream.

"After two or three weeks, I got a fever and started feeling sick. I thought maybe I had malaria. None of the medicine seemed to help. Our business also started to decline. Everything was going downhill. At that point, we went to the hospital. The doctors couldn’t find anything wrong but I was very sick. They didn’t know what to do for me. I stayed in the hospital for three months because my health just kept declining. They finally said I should go home to die because they couldn’t help me.

"My wife asked if I wanted to talk with our pastor. I told the pastor my dream. My pastor said, ‘If you refuse God, you will die. You must do what God wants you to do.’ We prayed together and after four hours, I began to feel better. After a week, the pastor asked me to go to the church and ask forgiveness. I gave my testimony and asked for them to pray for me. The pastor asked God to forgive me for ignoring him. ‘Now God needs you to work for him.’ I began to preach and helped to build new churches.

"When I was 35, I went to visit my parents and my mother said, ‘Now you need to go to theology school.’ I attended there for three years. We studied all kinds of religious philosophy but I wanted to be a Methodist minister because that was how I was raised. I helped to build three churches and then I had another dream. The man came to me again and said, ‘I am done with you here. I need to send you somewhere.’ I told him, ‘I have to take my family with me.’

"I shared my dream with my wife. We decided that this time we should listen. My friend, he was also a Methodist minister, had come to America about 10 years before this. He told me, ‘Maybe we could get you to come to America.’ We started the process and eventually, they gave us the visas we needed and we came to Nashua. Now we have moved to Lansing to serve God at the Methodist church. Lansing is the place God has sent me. It is a good community with good friends and good Christians. Plus, I like to fish and it is a great place to fish."

Pastor continued, “We still have one daughter left in the Congo. Rachelle is 17 and wanted to finish high school. She is staying with her grandmother. When she is done, we will try to get her to come over here. If God is willing, she will be able to come. It is very expensive though to get a visa, almost $10,000. I’m not sure how it will work now. God has blessed us in so many ways. We will see what  he wants us to do.”
 

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